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Service Animals in the Workplace

Posted by Sacha Dyson on July 16, 2019 at 9:16 PM

Laws governing employee use of service animals in the workplace fall under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), whereas Title II and Title III apply to government services and public accommodations, respectively. There are also state legislatures that are currently installing similar civil rights acts and laws that would protect employees and the public against discrimination as it pertains to the use of service animals.

Public Citizen Use of a Service Animal vs. Employee Use

A citizen's use of a service animal is limited to areas that the public is permitted to access, as outlined by Title II and Title III of the ADA. Title II and Title III also limits a citizen's choice of service animal to certain breeds of dogs and, in some instances, miniature horses.

An employee's request for the use of a service animal is treated like any other request for a workplace accommodation. While the right to make inquiries regarding a citizen's need for a service animal in a public space is rather limited, documentation can be requested to verify an employee's need for a service animal in the workplace. The employee must also be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without the service animal. As a result, the employer must consider what those essential functions are, what tasks can be performed with the assistance of a service animal, and if there are other accommodations that could be made to assist the employee in performing those functions without the aid of a service animal. 

What is a Service Animal?

Although Title I does not provide a definition for what constitutes a service animal in the workplace, Title II and Title III of the ADA describes a service animal as a dog that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Service animals are not pets or comfort animals, and there are no breed restrictions. As previously alluded to, miniature horses can also qualify as service animals when deemed as a reasonable option and must also be trained to work for the benefit of the disabled individual.

A public citizen may have more than one service animal; however, an establishment can inquire about the need for multiple service animals and does not have to provide accommodations for all service animals if they aren't readily available. An employee may also make a request for multiple service animals in the workplace. In this case, the employer would engage in the same interactive process as they would with the request for a single service animal.

Be sure to tune in for more information about service animals within the workplace and how those same implications and inquiries may or may not affect your city, parks and other public areas.